Changes in the World:
Enhancing My Disney Experience...
or Pirating My Memories?

By Amy Warren Stoll, ALL EARS® Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
July 18, 2006, Issue #356 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Change. It's a curious thing. Depending on the circumstance, it can bring the promise of new opportunity and the excitement of the undiscovered -- or it can create a dread of leaving the comfort of what we've always known and angst over the unfamiliar. Sometimes it even yields a strange combination of all those emotions. Maybe that combination is, in fact, the norm rather than the exception. Perhaps that's why we're so often torn -- not knowing whether we should embrace change or resist it with every fiber of our being.

I've always thought of myself as someone who is quite tolerant, if not welcoming, to change. Anyone who's seen the history-in-pictures of my numerous and varied hair colors would likely think so, too. Change seems to enliven me. But there is an exception to my apparent acceptance of change... Keep those reconstructing/refurbishing/rehabbing/reinventing mitts off of my Walt Disney World!

I'll admit it. I have been a closet supporter of the status quo when it comes to my beloved Land of the Mouse. Change at my precious home away from home? I don't like it. It annoys me. In that perfectly orchestrated environment, I believe it to be just another four letter word that tried to hide its obscenity by misappropriating two extra letters.

Reflecting on the changes to such a classic attraction like Pirates of the Caribbean brought those intolerant feelings forth with a vengeance. Don't get me wrong, there have been some changes at WDW that I've grown to accept, enjoy, and ultimately even take for granted. For example, adding the random drop sequences to the Tower of Terror was like a breath of fresh air. Make that a mouth-to-mouth rescue-breath of fresh air that literally revived what had become, for me, a predictable "been there done that" attraction. I'm just as pleased with the changes made to Winnie-the-Pooh's costume. He now looks like the actual animated character rather than a cheap, non-descript teddy bear you'd win at a carnival. Oops, did I say costume? I meant to refer to, uh, the, uh, drastic reconstructive surgery that Pooh underwent to return his appearance to normal after the, er, unfortunate boiling hunny-pot incident. Yes, that's it, the hunny-pot incident. No costume here.

So, if I already know in many instances that change has been for the better -- that it filled a void or enhanced my Disney experience -- why am I still so resistant? Why do I fear it, dread it, or even shed a tear over it? Well, I think I found the answer to that, and I found it in the most unlikely place -- my kitchen. Yes, my kitchen.

Many of my favorite memories of my late mother revolve around baking Toll House cookies and decorating lopsided layer cakes with her. Any time I want to reconnect with those memories, the trip down Memory Lane is as close as my kitchen cabinets. I still have most of the bowls, pans, and utensils that she and I used more than 30 years ago. Being able to hold them in my hands, see their familiar colors and patterns that are so clearly imprinted in my mind, while inhaling the unmistakable heated aroma of a kitchen frenzied with the specter of chocolate and refined sugar is often all I need to get a little lift or be comforted by reliving some dearly held memories.

Keeping those memories alive and unchanged has been so important to me that I've resisted updating the tools I use to accomplish those baking tasks. The number one item on my "Amy must have issues list" is my mother's cake decorating set. It's the only set I've ever used and the only set I ever wanted to use. Even after I crushed a few important pieces by accidentally stepping on them in an impressive display of my moose-like grace, I couldn't bring myself to use the new and improved set that had mysteriously found its way to my kitchen a few years ago.

But then, during a recent cake-baking visit to the kitchen, everything changed. Much to my dismay, as I attempted to tighten the little doohickey (technical term) that holds the decorating tip to the bag of icing, that doohickey literally fell apart in my hands. I held back tears (or maybe I didn't) as I inspected the damage and came to the realization that it was time to put aside my sentimental attachment and finally bring out the replacement set. I pulled out the strange contraption and, with a heavy heart, made my first attempt to use the unappreciated substitute. To my surprise, after a little bit of practice, I discovered that it worked like a dream! Why had I waited so long to try it? Why had I let my sentimentality prevent me from enjoying this new and improved version?

I'm not sure why (maybe because I had just been reading about the changes being made to "Pirates of the Caribbean"... or maybe because I'm a goofy Disney freak who relates all life events back to Disney) but I immediately saw a parallel between how I felt about change at my beloved Mouse House and how I'd tried to preserve the treasured memories of my mother by resisting change in my own house. In that instant, I understood that I don't just see WDW as the Mouse Mecca, but also as a mecca of memories. After that, everything else just fell into place.

It turns out that it was my cherished WDW memories that were propelling my resistance to change. The memories of family, friends and even strangers that had touched my heart were inextricably linked to the spectacular buffet for the senses I'd experienced at WDW and I was afraid that any changes to that pot-luck potpourri would spell disaster to those sensory-laden memories. For example, what if Disney did away with the fresh cookie smell at the end of Main Street? Would the memory of the shocked and boyish look on my Dad's face when his ice cream toppled of its waffle-cone foundation onto the hot asphalt of Main Street be as clear without that little olfactory push? Or what about the music of Future World? If it changed, could I still remember so intensely being mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the water ballet of the Innoventions Fountain during my very first trip to WDW? Well, since those two memories came to me so clearly and vividly as I stood in my kitchen, a thousand miles away from WDW, I had to conclude that my memories were quite safe -- no matter what changed or didn't change at Disney. And my kitchen experience just taught me what I really already knew... that change can be good!

Before that little epiphany, I had assumed that I was objecting to changes to "Pirates" because it offended my sense of wanting to keep it classic. But since I was one of the few people who actually liked the Pepto-Bismol birthday cake castle monstrosity of WDW's 25th anniversary, I can't exactly claim to be a Disney-purist, now can I? Maybe I had thought changing the attraction would diminish the feeling that it was a piece of living history and a connection to Walt himself. After all, it's widely believed that Pirates is the last attraction that he personally worked on. But then I thought back to a quote Walt made about Disneyland: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." I have to believe that he'd feel the same about what's been created at WDW and would encourage us to use our imagination to improve on what he started. Perhaps the best way to honor Walt and keep his legacy an active, vital part of the Disney experience is to allow the Imagineers and other Cast Members to continue Walt's wish to always improve on what he'd accomplished and created.

So, after reflecting on the revelations and examining the evidence, I've decided to give the changes at Pirates of the Caribbean a fair chance. After all, I know my mother wanted me to be an open-minded person, and I think she would be proud that I'm not afraid to admit when I've been wrong. It would appear that it's time for me to turn over a new leaf and rethink my attitude about change at WDW. Besides, when adding a feast for the eyes like Johnny Depp to the attraction, this is clearly not the time to turn one's nose up at the changes Disney is dishing up!


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For info and photos of the rehabbed Pirates of the Caribbean:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.